This weekend in Tokyo, Honda took the wraps off its Uni-Cub personal mobility device concept, showing the public what the self-balancing, motorized "unicycle" is capable of. The Omni Traction Drive System in the Uni-Cub uses a system of small wheels that rim the main drive wheel, propelling the vehicle 90 degrees left or right. The result: the seated rider can smoothly and (seemingly) effortlessly move in any direction just by leaning — front, back, side-to-side, or any combination thereof. A representative from Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation took the Uni-Cub through its paces during a short 10-minute demo, showing off the device’s tight turning radius by repeatedly looping backward inside a ring of spectators. The moves looked tricky to pull off, but we’re told that it’s really easy to learn — supposedly you can pick it up in 10 minutes.
The Uni-Cub's top speed is 6kph (about 3.7mph), and its lithium-ion battery pack will keep it running for about an hour at that pace. Of course, no 21st Century vehicle would be complete without a smartphone app, and Honda's allows the rider to rotate his or her Uni-Cub on the spot (say, to turn and face someone), as well as call it over from across the room (video below). Also, if you're worried about the vehicle's performance on hills, we learned it can tackle grades of up to 8 percent. Honda hasn't announced any plans to put the Uni-Cub into production, but it will start letting the public test drive it in spring of 2013.